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Issues in Applied Linguistics

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The Role of Questioning in Japanese Political Discourse


According to Nakajima (1989), Japanese political discussions are characterized by 'question-response' sequences which occupy considerable time, but display no clear resolution nor true dispute. The present study examines 'question-response' sequences in Japanese political discourse. In particular, the study addresses how questions (Qs) are used to control other interlocutors as well as the relationship between questions and conflict in Japanese political discourse. A panel discussion conducted among several panelists of Japanese politicians, economists, and professional moderators, was video-tape recorded from a Japanese television program and transcribed. Questions are identified and classified into several syntactic forms and the distribution of these question forms in the data is examined. The manner in which questions are posed and responded to is qualitatively and quantitatively analyzed in order to determine the degree of control exerted and their role as dispute markers. These analyses reveal that questions that possess greater ambiguity in terms of desired addressees' responses are preferred and strategically utilized along with suprasegmental features and non-linguistic devices in the Japanese political discussion under investigation. The study shows that the general tendency to avoid overt control and overt conflict is reflected in questioning strategies employed in the discourse, which may symbolize a characteristic type of Japanese-like argumentation.

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